10 Fun Things To Do with Kids in and around Orange County
Visiting Orange County, California usually means a trip to Disneyland or going to the beach. But there’s more to this part of California than roller coasters and Mickey. You just might be surprised by all the fun things to do in Orange County with kids from U-pick farms, historical railroad park, to botanical gardens.
Whether you’re looking for things to do outside the themed parks on your next Disneyland vacation, or planning a trip that doesn’t include Mickey at all, here are 10 fun things to do in and around Orange County with kids.
1. Meet, Feed, and Get Acquainted with the Animals at Zoomars
Tucked away in the Los Rios district of San Juan Capistrano is a Spanish-style farm that houses more than 200 animals, a miniature train and a rustic Miner’s Gulch. They have unique petting pens where you can get up close and personal with their sweet animals.
Admission is $10 for kids (infants 12 months and under are free), and $12 for adults. Entry to the guinea pig petting pen, goat and sheep brushing pen, corn pit and playground are all included with admission. There are also llamas, pigs, bunnies, and an emu that you can pet through their enclosures.
The guinea pigs, goats and sheep are the only animals that you can enter their habitat. There is an extra fee for a salad basket to feed the guinea pigs (they still come up to you without food).
They also have a mini-train, panning for gemstones, a corn box, and a playground to keep your little ones entertained if you get tired of petting and feeding the animals.
At Zoomars, even first-time riders can enjoy a ride on their horses and ponies. The experienced handlers at the zoo hand-lead the horses and ponies down the trail and both the saddles and riding gear are equipped with safety belts for an enjoyable, safe experience.
2. Wander Among Plants and Flowers at Sherman Library and Gardens
A visit to the Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar is like taking a trip around the world. From a Japanese garden to a desert collection, the botanical garden offers a colorful variety of flowers, trees, and plants.
With floral and plant covered overhangs and walls, the two-acre botanic garden is sure to wow every member of your family. Sherman Library and Gardens is also home to a conservatory and greenhouse. Kids will love visiting the Koi pond during feeding time.
Their Discovery Garden is a highlight for kids to smell and touch plants. This one is better for school age kids rather than toddlers. If you have older kids who love taking photos — it’s paradise!
Sherman Library and Gardens offer a variety of arts and garden based educational opportunities for children of all ages. Their gardens are a living laboratory of exploration and creative inspiration. It’s a place for children to come, explore, learn and have fun!
They also host an extensive Children’s Garden Program including scavenger hunts, family tours, and plant shows.
3. Have a Real Afternoon Tea at the Morning Lavender
If you’re looking for a place to have a mommy-daughter tea time (also shopping time), this spot is perfect. It’s never too early to teach your daughter to love the experience of eating tiny sandwiches and receiving her own pot of tea! This love of high tea at such a young age will definitely carry over to adulthood.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
The owners decided to open a cafe to go along with its boutique and it worked out perfectly! Half of the building is the cafe and the other half is the clothing boutique. Perfect for a fun shopping and tea day for moms and daughters.
The indoor cafe looked great on Instagram, but it was even better in person! Pristine white marble countertops, fresh lavender in dainty vases, a flower wall….It’s a girly heaven with chic and trendy vibes.
They also have an outdoor seating area – A perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea with your toddlers as well as your fur babies.
4. Pack a Picnic Basket and Enjoy the Day at Huntington Central Park or Miles Square Regional Park
At Huntington Central Park you will find a lush 350-acre oasis. The peaceful setting of open grass fields and extensive tree and flower plantings is used for various activities such as picnics, biking, playing, and walking along the paved paths.
It’s the perfect spot for your kids to soak up every bit of nature, open fields, trees, flowers, birds, lakes and a butterfly haven.
This park is serene, beautiful, and perfect for family picnic time. After picnic, you should take your kids to explore the meandering trails and all attractions that this wonderful park offers.
Our second favorite park in Orange County is Miles Square Regional Park. What is there to do at Mile Square Park? There are fishing lakes, 3 playgrounds, an archery range, picnic areas, birdwatching, a nature area, walking paths, a fitness trail, and even a Farmers Market. There are so many things to do at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley for kids and families!
Why do they call it Mile Square Park? When looking at a map, the entire block is a “mile square” between Edinger and Warner on the top/bottom + Brookhurst and Euclid on the left/right. So you can walk the exterior sidewalks and get in a 4-mile walk. We’ve been to Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley many times over the past decade and we enjoy our 4-mile trek on the perimeter sidewalk of the block. It’s a good walk but if you bring your kids, it’s better to walk inside the nature area away from traffic. Plus, It’s way more fun to meander on the sidewalks all throughout the park.
5. Get Picking at Tanaka Farms
A great U-Pick farm to explore is Tanaka Farms. They harvest strawberries, watermelons and pumpkins. Pickable crops change by the season—strawberries typically can be found from March to June, while melon are available June to September and pumpkins and other fall veggies are popular in November and December.
Tanaka Farms offers families the chance to pick their own fruit, visit barnyard animals, learn about life on the farm, take farm-to-table cooking classes and cookout tours, sit in on educational workshops, go on a hayride, and plant their own sunflowers to take home.
We especially love visiting Tanaka Farms during pumpkin picking season. Possibly OC’s most popular u-pick pumpkin patch with acres of farm fun, Tanaka Farms grows plump pumpkins on-site. Nothing beats being in a real farm, going on a wagon, exploring a giant maze, and looking at scarecrows.
No matter which season you decide to visit this farm is a fun place to make memories and introduce kids to sustainable farming and the taste of freshly picked fruits and vegetables. (You can read more about our pumpkin picking trip at Tanaka Farms here!)
6. Ride a Train on the Irvine Park Railroad
Pay a visit to scenic Irvine Regional Park and hop aboard the train around the park at the Irvine Park Railroad.
The Irvine Park Railroad is the oldest in Orange County, and well-known for its railroad, small zoo, multiple playgrounds, and horse rides.
Not only the Irvine Park is gorgeous year long, but for fall season this park transforms into a magical fantasyland with carnival games, face painting booths, cookie decorating, panning for gold, bounce houses, and plenty of pumpkins.
During fall season families will enjoy the the scenic railroad rides in the vintage train cars (which no kid can resist) around pumpkin patches as well as hay rides and pony rides.
7. Indulge your Little Ones with Yummy Noodles and Boba Drinks at Anaheim Packing District
If you’re looking for something different to do on your trip to Disneyland with your kids, consider leaving the parks and all that fast food options (burgers, hot dogs, pizzas,…) and venturing over to Anaheim’s hot spot – the Anaheim Packing District. Opened in May 2014, the area is a food lover’s paradise.
The Packing District is part of a few historic landmarks on the block. It was once a working citrus packing warehouse in the early 1900s and has been converted nicely into the two-story food hall that it is today. This place is filled with natural light that beams down from the top of the atrium, making this large, market-style space warm and inviting.
The first thing to do here that is sure to wow your kids is to visit the 206 BCE and order their signature Ani-Gravity Noodles. These are the coolest noodles we’ve seen! I won’t spoil the magic, but the anti-gravity noodles literally stand up.
This bowl might look like an instagrammable dish that won’t taste good, but this dish was actually really tasty! The ample egg noodles were bathed in a delicious garlicky soy butter that was impactful and aromatic. There was plenty of seafood hidden underneath.
The next stop that your kids would love is the Mini Monster. Located on the top floor, this drink vendor offers iced coffees, lemonade, fruit, milk and chai teas for $4 to $5.
This was a top-tier vendor because it resides next to the bar stools that overlook the central quad. These stools are tall, but there are cable wires for those on the shorter side to rest their feet on comfortably while feeling tall watching the scenery below.
8. Have an Aquatic Adventure at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific may not technically be in Orange County, but is in OC’s next door neighbor, Long Beach, and definitely worth the trip. It is the largest aquarium in Southern California and has great exhibits where you can get hands-on encounter with jellyfish, coral, sea stars, sea cucumbers, stingrays and even sharks!
The jellyfish exhibit is incredible! The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to 11 different types of jellyfish including sea jellies and comb jellies, some of which are bioluminescent!
There are many other incredible exhibits featuring amazing aquatic life separated by marine environment, like Southern California/Baja, Northern Pacific, and Tropical Pacific. Some animals even have their own habitat, like sea otters, penguins, and frogs!
Conservation and education are top priorities of the Aquarium of the Pacific so when you visit you’re sure to learn about aquatic life conservation, environmental preservation, and the impact and importance of water!
9. Apple Picking and Cider Pressing in Oak Glen
About an hour away from Orange County, Oak Glen is an apple haven that sits up in a higher elevation near the San Bernadino mountains. It’s the perfect family day trip to explore orchards, hand pick your own fruit, and indulge in some fun activities.
Just a short drive from Orange County and you are transformed into another world! As you get to Oak Glen and head up into the hills, the roads begin to wind and you see many orchards and ranches along this beautiful drive, full of trees, hiking trails, stores and mountains.
This historical little town even has some orchards that date back into the 1800’s! They are all wonderful and each farm offers something different to the guests from apple/berry picking, farm fair, petting zoos, cider pressing to live music, arts and crafts.
The crisp, delicious apple varieties ripen between August and October every year. Our favorite apple orchard here is the Riley’s Los Rios Rancho. They have a large assortment of apples, with over 30 varieties; some of their trees are over a hundred years old, planted by the original Oak Glen family.
We spent time wandering the grounds picking the freshest apples. We strolled amidst the trees for shade, and stopped for photos along the way with uniform rows of trees, blue skies, and fresh apples as the backdrop.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! This is also a great place to learn about the history of working farms in California. It’s like stepping back in time to the Colonial days! On the weekends visiting families will find historic entertainment in their farm fair like candle dipping, toy making, blacksmith work, throwing tomahawks, corn maze, petting zoo, wagon rides and hayrides.
You need to purchase tickets to partake in these farm fair activities and learn about what the pioneers did for fun back in the 1800’s. One of the highlights of our trip was being able to press our own gallon of cider on the 1930’s replica hand press.
Pressing our own cider was an experience we’ll never forget. It really made us appreciate all the hard work that goes into a gallon of cider! This is the best apple cider we have ever tasted. Nothing beats enjoying the fruits of your own labor. Don’t miss this activity when you visit!
You can read more about our apple picking trip in Oak Glen here.
10. Enjoy yummy waffles and coloring at Coffee Dose, Irvine
Coffee Dose is a fun, novelty coffee shop that features organic and vegan-friendly menu items. Coffee Dose’s tagline, “Not Your Grandma’s Coffee Shop,” is fitting for this bright pink, ultra-Instagrammable, cheeky coffee shop.
Coffee Dose has a shared outdoor space with tables and umbrellas and seating inside with both tables and barstools. They have high chairs, coloring pages, and a kids menu for little ones including delicious food like the GF Cheesy Goodness (gluten-free grilled cheese) and yummy fancy drinks like the Baby Fanella (milk with vanilla and cinnamon).
This coffee shop is the perfect place for parents enjoying quality coffee while the young ones can have a plenty of fun with eating yummy waffles and coloring. And they use the best ingredients for their drinks and food. They make their syrups in-house, use the best plant-based milks, and their RX lattes offer a variety of health benefits. Coffee ranges from classic beverages, like their Flat White, to more extravagant drinks, like the Dreamsicle, which uses espresso, oat milk and their house-made orange vanilla bean syrup.
Which of these things to do in Orange County would your family like most? Let us know in the comments below!